Mon, Jun 25 2012 03:23 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
They were hailed as BMX’s Great Eight: Connor Fields, Nic Long, Mike Day, Barry Nobles, Corben Sharrah, Donny Robinson, Joey Bradford and Josh Meyers.
They were gathered for the biggest race of their careers last Saturday at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center. At stake was a berth on the U.S. team that would compete in this summer’s London Games.
The winner would secure an automatic berth on the team, joining David Herman as two of this country’s three allotted men’s Olympic team members.
Herman, a 23-year-old native of Wheat Ridge, Colo., had previously secured a spot on Team USA as the overall leader of the 2012 USA Cycling BMX Power Rankings.
The final Team USA berth was a coach’s discretionary selection.
With eight racers vying for one guaranteed spot, the prize was obviously to win the U.S. Olympic Trials to remove any sense of doubt.
Fields proved to be that man in the winner-take-all scenario.
The OTC resident athlete, who turns 20 on Sept. 14, played his hand well, as might be expected from someone who hails from Las Vegas. He recorded the second-best time (38.229) in the time trials, won the opening of three motos in a photo finish with Sharrah and took a narrow second (to Sharrah) in the second moto before electing to save himself for the race that counted most.
His showing in the first two motos was enough to earn one of four spots in the final.
Fields joined Day, a silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games at which BMX made its debut, along with Sharrah, who had captured much of the crowd’s attention with show stopping performances during the five preliminary races, and Barry Nobles, the underdog from Alabama, on the ramp for the main event.
Fields, who finished second in the U.S. BMX Power Rankings, punched his ticket to London by winning the four-man race in 38.203 seconds. The Nevadan got out to an early lead off the first series of berms and held it throughout the race.
Day, the oldest competitor at 28, made up ground toward the end to make it a respectable finish but took second in 38.623.
The 20-year-old Sharrah, the winner of both time trials (37.964 and 38.488) and two of the three motos on the warm day in front of an estimated 5,000 spectators, finished third in 38.765; Nobles, 25, was fourth in 45.565.
To the winner belonged the spoils — in this case, a giant cardboard ticket from LAX to London Heathrow. Departure date: Aug. 1, 3:55 p.m. Seat C3.
Fields proudly hoisted the prize above his head during the post-race media conference. When he set it down, something personally meaningful caught his eye.
He pointed it out: first class.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Fields said, beaming. “All my lifetime I’ve worked for this moment. It’s inspiring. It’s been awesome this year living the Olympic dream.”
And now it’s a reality.
Fields admitted his strategy was not to burn himself out on the course (he finished the last moto in 74.242, dead last).
“I figured I would be a shoo-in for the coach’s selection and at first I thought about not even entering this,” he said. “But I’m a racer and I love to race.”
The pressure wasn’t on him. “For the other guys, it was win this or the Olympic dream is over,” Fields said. “I was relaxed all day. I came in knowing that it was win one lap and you’re in.”
Fields said familiarity with the course also helped. The 2012 U.S. Olympic BMX Trials took place on the Chula Vista facility’s newest addition: a replica of the course to be used in London.
Fields and other OTC BMXers had been training on the new track since mid-April — exactly 100 days out from the London Games.
“Training is important to me,” Fields said.
Fields edged Sharrah by 0.015 seconds in the first moto. The field was reduced to six after the second moto and to four after the third moto for the main event.
The U.S. Olympic Trials victory adds to a growing list of impressive accomplishments turned in by the 19-year-old. Fields won the gold medal at last year’s Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and has won three consecutive BMX Supercross World Cups.
Herman joined Fields and U.S. women’s qualifier Arielle Martin, another OTC resident athlete, at the post-race media conference. The U.S. team will feature five racers in London: three men and two women.
Martin, 26, qualified as an automatic pick by finishing as the overall leader in the 2012 USA Cycling BMX Power Rankings.
That left two coaches picks — one man and one woman — to fill out the 2012 U.S. squad.
Alise Post, a 21-year-old native of Saint Cloud. Minn., received the final women’s berth after finishing second in the U.S. BMX power rankings.
Lakeside’s Nic Long garnered the final men’s berth in somewhat of a surprise. Long had a disappointing showing in last Saturday’s Olympic trials. After winning the second time trial in 39.047, he finished fifth in each of the ensuing three motos to miss the main event cut altogether.
The United States Olympic Committee will confirm the five selections at its general meeting in early July.
After finishing second to Fields in the U.S. Olympic Trials, Day might have seemed a likely choice but the U.S. coaching staff instead elected to go with new blood in the 22-year-old Long.
Long had finished third in the 2012 USA Cycling BMX Power Rankings ahead of Day (fourth) and Nobles (fifth).
The objective of the coaching staff was to put together the best combination of athletes, based on physical and mental strengths, who could bring back medals from the 2012 Summer Games.
What Long had going for him was a third-place finish at the London track test event last August.
The U.S. Olympic Trials results (other than the winner) were not a valid selection criteria, according to sources.
Also left off the 2012 U.S. squad was Napa’s Donny Robinson, 27, the bronze medalist in Beijing.
Robinson finished sixth in the 2012 U.S. power rankings and failed to make it to last Saturday’s third moto after finishing sixth in the opening moto and seventh in the second moto.
An ill-timed crash eliminated Martin from contention for an Olympic berth in 2008.
“Being able to represent my country is more than words can express,” she said. “I love being an American and I love everything about America. To wear the red, white and blue is a dream come true.”
The five American selections expect to receive stiff competition from their European rivals. Latvia’s Maris Strombergs won the men’s gold medal at the Beijing Games while France’s Anne-Caroline Chausson and Laetitia le Corquille finished with the women’s gold and silver, respectively, at the 2008 Summer Games.
“We all know what we’re getting into,” Fields said. “We’re going to spend the next couple of months getting ourselves better.”
“There’s not going to be any slacking off going on here,” Herman added. “We’re going to put in some solid work and come back with some medals.”
The London Games will take place July 25 to Aug. 12. BMX is scheduled Aug. 8-10. For more information, visit www.usoc.org.
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